There are not many half marathons in the Ohio area in February and March. Which makes sense because it is normally cold and snow and what crazy person wants to run in that? Don’t answer that.
Anyways, Ryan did some searching and found the Shamrock Shuffle Half Marathon in Harmony Pa. Which also happened to be on his Birthday, so naturally it was an easy pick as a fun race to do.
The website clearly listed it as a hilly course. Which is good to know so I could pick what pace I would want to run and not feel like I should push for a PR on a hard course. However, I have ran quite a few hilly course and still manage to run fairly well so I figured I could still run a 1:42-1:43 on a hilly course…Even if it is the toughest in the tri state area.
Even if it is the toughest and crazy elevation and 2 massive hills….
Seeing the actual elevation I got a little nervous so when we got into town we had just enough daylight to drive part of the course. I thought seeing the hills would make me feel better and help me pace myself for the race.
Unfortunately, seeing the hills did not make me feel any better. They kind of scared the crap out of me. You know, like when you are so scared you laugh nervously. I mean, I was actually scared the car wouldn’t make it up some of the hills. And I’m not even exaggerating.
I tried to remain positive the rest of the night and tell myself it would just be really good training. And also to through out all goals and just try to run a good race, no PR or time goals.
I wish I could say I didn’t sleep well because I was nervous for the race, instead, I didn’t sleep well because I was listening to what sounded like a porn movie being filmed in the next room. I am not even exaggerating. I should have video taped the noises alone from proof. I laughed at first but from 2am to 4am was very noisy. Especially with a 5am wake up call.
Despite a lack of sleep, I was ready to tackle these hills and run a good race. Just kidding, I was having stomach issues, so nervous I was sick to my stomach and was not looking forward to a tough race. Especially with the hamstring issues I have been dealing with. What was I thinking signing up for a hilly race when I am already having hamstring issues. So dumb Jess.
I’m lucky enough to have a husband who takes good care of me and pumps me up when I am nervous. After warming up for the race, I was as ready as I could be and ready to go out conservative.
The first 4 miles were lots of rollers, the course elevation doesn’t really show that but it definitely was not easy or flat, I managed to run a 7:30 pace for most of those miles. By mile 5 however, you get into the hilly stuff and HOLY COW was it some tough stuff. The first hill was so tough I could barely run up, a lot of people walked it but I was determined to run it. But I kept thinking, “this is the smaller of the hills, what am I going to do for the next hill.”
I stopped looking at my watch at this point because it was so hilly, it really didn’t matter what I was running. There would be no picking up the pace for the next couple of miles. I did try to tell myself I only had to get to mile 8 or so and then I get to turnaround and head back.
The next hill, the really big hill, was just that. Really really really big. I was determined to run up it though. I saw everyone walking ahead of me and I was going to run past each and every one of them. This was my chance to gain a lead in the race. Yeah right, I didn’t last long running up the hill. I was walking with the rest of them.
Imagine you are hiking up a mountain and it is so steep that you can touch the ground as you are climbing. That might be a slight exaggeration but definitely what it felt like climbing the big hill. There was even green beer and jello shots at the top to celebrate with.
Something I didn’t realize when I completed the big hill was that I would have to come down that hill. Normally, coming down a hill sounds great. Less work to do and should be able to pick up the pace. However, this hill was so steep that it was literally pulling you down the hill. If I would have tripped, I would have went tumbling down the hill and probably would have hurt myself. Who knows when I would have stopped rolling down the hill.
Spoiler: I did not trip or fall down the hill, I successfully put one foot in front of the other and made it to the bottom.
The best part about this race was from mile 9-13 it is almost all downhill. I mean, as downhill as a hilly race can get. The last 4 miles felt amazing. I kept thinking about how good I felt despite a hilly race and how I never once hit a wall or point where I couldn’t run anymore. Perhaps I paced myself well with the fear of the hills.
I ended up finishing 11th female overall and 2nd in my age group with a time of 1:46:52. This might be one of the hardest races I have ever ran. Definitely one of the hardest half marathons. Still I was happy how I ran this race and even though I didn’t run a great time, I ran well considering the tough course.
Will I be back to run this race again? Probably not. It was a great race but I really don’t need to run races that are that hilly.